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If you recognize Ryan Sutter, it’s probably because you’re a fan of The Bachelorette. A Vail firefighter, Sutter appeared on TV to vie for the hand of Trista Rehm—which he won. (The couple married in 2003 and live in Colorado.) Now, he’s hoping to win something else: Financial support for First Descents and GrassRoot Soccer, two organizations that aim to better the world by helping those who are struggling the most. To raise the money, Sutter is going to complete two unthinkable feats of endurance—one right after the other.
Two days after mountain biking in the infamous Leadville 100 MTB Race, he’ll embark on the Gore-Tex TransRockies running race, a six-day rampage through the Colorado high country that spans 116 miles from Buena Vista to Beaver Creek. Back-to-back epics like these would challenge anyone—even leggy Kenyans who excel at grueling enduros. And Sutter is a former pro football player who’s used to short, fast bursts of power rather than long epics.
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So why the long hauls? When Sutter’s good friend, Brad Ludden, founded First Descents to use adventure therapy to help young adults with cancer, Sutter got involved—and got inspired. “I saw a lot of myself in those cancer survivors,” he says. Like them, Sutter’s life is crowded with job, family, and exercise. “I struggle to keep up with my life as it is,” he explains. “These people are busy with similar involvements—but they’re also dealing with the monumental addition of cancer, which throws a giant jolt into their lives.”
Sutter got to thinking: If cancer survivors could do so much, maybe he, too, had untapped potential. So he started forcing himself to complete endurance events. And this August, he’ll turn that participation into a fundraiser for First Descents and GrassRoots Soccer, an organization founded by a cancer survivor who uses soccer to educate Africans about HIV.
For Sutter, completing back-to-back races isn’t a showcase for his athletic talent. “I’m not going to win,” he says. “I’m slow.” Instead, it’s about pushing himself the way cancer survivors must do in order to survive the disease. “Your physical body is telling you to quit,” Sutter says. “So you’ve got to rely on your emotional strength to keep going.” Learn more or donate to Sutter’s cause.